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Big Wind

How Did Jet Engines Put Out Oil Fires in Kuwait?

Oil fires are often started by accident or natural events like lightning. On rare occasions – arson. They occur when the oil or gas from a source get ignited. At home, we know the best way to put out a grease fire is to suffocate the flames. But how do you fix this on a large scale? Such as the case of the Kuwait Oil Field Fires during the Gulf War.

Big Wind, a tank with a MiG turbojet engine mounted on it, cuts off the flow of oil into the air by pumping about a thousand gallons of water per minute. The black smoke slowly eases down, and the fire is put out.

The History Behind Big Wind

In 1991, during the gulf war, the Iraqi Army set off explosives in the oil fields of Kuwait. This ignited several oil wells which caused flames that reached up to 300 feet. For 30 weeks, the fire released 5,000 tons of black smoke into the desert air. If left alone, the fires could have lasted for a hundred years. (Source: Fires of Kuwait)

The Arab-owned Hungarian company, MB Drilling developed Big Wind to help put out fires. It was made in 1991 in a town 50 miles away fro Budapest. The concept of using a MiG jet engine for this kind of task is not new. The Russians had been using MiG engines to blow out fires and clear snow for a while. (Source: Car and Driver)

How Did They Transport Big Wind?

Big wind was supposed to be used in the oil well fires in Hungary, but because of the Gulf War and Kuwait’s emergent need for help, the massive tank was transported to the middle east instead.

Big Wind is basically a cross between a T-34 Tank and a MiG-21 and it weighed about 46 tons. This massive tank was loaded on a C-13 cargo carrier and flown to Kuwait. (Source: Car and Driver)

How Did Big Wind Work?

The concept of Big Wind was simple – cut of the oil supply to kill the fire. A crew moves the tank closer to the fire, the larger it is, the closer they should get. Once they are in an optimal position, they will start pumping water into the exhaust of the engines then turn on the jet power.

The engine spews thick streams of water at a very fast rate. This cuts through the oil, eliminating the fuel-source. Eventually, smothering the fire.

Big Wind stays in the same position for about another 20 to 30 minutes to cool down the hot mountain of oil. Only when the fire is put out, can the oil workers start capping the wells. (Source: We Are The Mighty)

Who Drove Big Wind?

Big Wind was handled by three crewmen at the time of the Kuwait Fires. The driver was inside the tank, he was responsible for steering and stopping the vehicle. The controller, positioned at the rear cabin, took care of starting the water pump and engine. And lastly, the fire chief was responsible for issuing orders from 15 feet away via remote control. The three crewmen who drove Big Wind were Hungarian firefighters who worked for the MB Drilling Company at the time. (Source: AP News)

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